The arrival of International Woman’s Day is meant to reflect and celebrate the accomplishments and impact women have had on the world at large. That idea couldn’t be anymore important this year, with continued discussions about the need for women and women of color in the job market, especially as COVID has forced them to leave the work sector in droves. This year, WarnerMedia and it’s trio of television networks — TBS, TNT, and truTV — aren’t just celebrating women, but reminding us of the issues that still plague them.
With the help of the animation studio Black Women Animate, the network is running a series of ads aimed at targeting specific women’s issues, from the pay gap to body liberation. Voiced by heavy-hitters like “Full Frontal” host Samantha Bee and “The Misery Index” host Jameela Jamil, the ads hope to make audiences “choose to challenge” these issues.
WarnerMedia has done campaigns like this in the past, but what they were looking for this was an added emphasis on issues created by the pandemic. “We really sat down and wanted to pull together a group of empowered women and go further to shed a light on the important issues that exist around gender,” Missy Chambless, EVP of marketing for TNT, TBS, and truTV told IndieWire. “The data is hard to ignore that exist in these animations and we use that data as a jumping off point…to really bring awareness and help spark change.”
From the outset the network wanted to work with a predominately female team and so enlisted the help of Free the Work, a company that provides a curated database of underrepresented creators. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and the world is crazy, and that means women and people of color are getting even less opportunity in these circumstances,” said Ali Roberto, who found Black Women Animate for the campaign. Roberto explained she’s very conscious of how many women and marginalized people are part of her crews already, so it was important the company working on the campaign was reflective of that.
For WarnerMedia, which is focused on increasing representation both in front of and behind the camera, Chambless said it’s important that the people working on the campaign were those affected by the issues covered in the animations themselves.
Enter BWA and its founder and CEO Taylor K. Shaw. Shaw, a writer and content creator herself, founded the company after working on a series she had written and failing to find a Black female animator to work on it. “These women have to exist, women of color in this space have to be present,” she said. The company’s vision is to serve as a blueprint for equity in the industry and, more importantly, to push for greater visibility and opportunity for Black women and POC artists. For Shaw, working with the network on this campaign wasn’t just about their desire to have an all-female team behind the camera but the grander intentions.
“The intention to challenge gender inequality, leadership roles and inspire confidence in women is extremely, extremely important,” Shaw said. And each of those topics is found within the #ChoosetoChallenge ads airing on the network. One ad that’s included that particularly stands out looks at body liberation and includes an animated woman in a wheelchair. “We feel, as women, that body liberation is something we all struggle with,” Roberto said. “That is something that we let ourselves be held back by.”
It isn’t enough to just see a disabled character on-screen in these ads, but know that there is a desire to have disabled animators working behind the scenes, as is the case with BWA. The company’s dedicated to have inclusion, from all groups, working with them leading to a bigger question why larger companies aren’t doing the same. “BWA, we’re a totally self-funded company,” Shaw said. “And we’ve been able to build a platform that allows us to attract and really foster talent that is emerging and diverse. There are no excuses for why these companies, who have billions of dollars, cannot do the same.” Shaw explained that it’s all about paying attention to talent outside of one’s purview and put in resources to diversify the industry.
When just a few decades ago media companies were reluctant to dip their toes into social issues, Chambless hopes these animations are just the start for the network. “When I shared these animations with my colleagues a large reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, these are fantastic, we need to do more of these,” she said. The hope is that the network, and audiences, won’t stop talking about the issues laid out in the animations simply on International Women’s Day but throughout the year.
“I want people to take away from this [as] this is what’s possible when women lead,” Shaw said. “This campaign really speaks to the ingenuity and the power of women. This is what’s possible when we’re given the space to foster a collective vision together and together we’ll rise to new heights.”
You can see the BWA International Women’s Day shorts below: